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Jesse Seaver Headshot

A Guy Who's Plugged In: How Our Spending Can Change the World

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I had a conversation with my friend Spencer Sherman this week. He is the CEO of Abacus, a small financial advisory firm with offices on both coasts. I've known him to be someone who is passionate about philanthropy. He values top-notch childhood education for all, quality food for all, and a clean and sustainable planet. He has educated me about the rewards of investing without emotion. I never expected that his next teaching about money would come from his recent car purchase.

"I know I'm supporting farming and the planet when I buy and grow organic food, which I do, but I had no idea of the personal and global repercussions of my recent purchase of a fully electric car." He purchased a Nissan Leaf, which can go about 100 miles on a single charge. "Not only do I not stop at gas stations, but I talk to people about not stopping at gas stations; this car attracts and inspires paradigm shifting conversations. (In contrast, last year's purchase of a sofa has yet to inspire any conversations.)."

I asked him why a guy who's never loved cars is so happy about the purchase and talking about it so much. "Because I'm fascinated by the power of this purchase on another level. For most of my clients' purchases (a coat, a new cell phone, a lipstick, a pair of skis, a flat screen TV) the greatest point of satisfaction seems to occur just before we pay the money or hand over the credit card. It's all-downhill from there. This is the first time that my satisfaction has grown after buying anything and it continues to grow. Every time I get in the car, I know that I'm making a gift to the planet because I'm not polluting. There are no exhaust fumes to breathe." Spencer has a charging station in his garage (courtesy of the State of California) and solar panels on his house (which provide the electricity that charges the car).

"It's the only car I've ever loved. It's guilt-free driving. And I'm proud to be seen in it. I never had a sports car, but everyone is looking at me as if I'm the coolest guy on the block. They ask if it's really fully electric, and are amazed that there is no place for the gasoline!'"

People notice the car because of its design, but not it's sound. "It's absolutely silent -- which is great for reducing noise pollution, but not so great in my neighborhood where I had to honk my horn last week so three swaggering teenagers walking in the middle of the road noticed me -- but once they did, they smiled and asked me how I like my car."

Spencer "voted" with his dollars (and he spent the same amount on the electric car, after the federal and state government credits, as he would have spent on an old fashioned gasoline car); he's hoping that when enough people "vote" with their wallets by buying a fully electric car, manufacturers will have every incentive to create the batteries that will increase the driving range, and the number of charging stations will increase exponentially. According to evsroll.com, there are currently 1,661 electric vehicle charging stations in California, versus about 10,000 gas stations according to manta.com.

While this may seem like a plug for electric cars, and it is, it's also a plug to think about how your everyday purchases can impact life both locally and globally, and count, in a way, toward your philanthropic and charitable giving,